The way Teddy Bridgewater and his 6-2 Minnesota Vikings squad was rolling, the only thing that could stop their bum rush on Green Bay’s pre-awarded NFC North title was an act of God or a cheap shot by some sucker MC that decapitated the heart-n-soul of the squad.
In this case, St. Louis Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner was attempting to be that head-hunting, season-changer...or wrecker.
As Minnesota led St. Louis 18-15 in the fourth quarter of a 21-18 win, Bridgewater gained five yards on a scramble to his left, securing the first down. As he was attempting to slide on the play, Joyner targeted him anyway and appeared to blast Bridgewater with a shot to the dome with his shoulder and elbow. Bridgewater was out like a car battery and remained motionless with his eyes shut. When he gathered his faculties, he left the game and was replaced by Shaun Hill.
Needless to say, Vikings HC Mike Zimmer was tighter than the pants on a high school kid. He straight out says he thought the hit was dirty.
“If we were out in the street, we probably would have had a fight said Zimmer at the postgame press conference.
When asked if he thought the Rams were targeting Bridgewater, Zimmer said, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that there is a history there with their defensive coordinator. I’ll leave it at that.”
NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders interpreted that statement was a shot at Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams who was the orchestrator of the infamous Saints "Bountygate" scandal that rocked the NFL world and got a gang of folk suspended from Saints HC Sean Payton on down the totem pole.
The next matchup between these two teams should be a flagfest. Players have memories like elephants.
Rams HC Jeff Fisher defended Joyner after the game, saying, “he’s a class kid.”
It just wasn’t a class act.
With Adrian Peterson back and beasting the league in rushing with 758 yards (big surprise) and Bridgewater blossoming into a top notch QB, the Vikings are on a four-game winning streak. The last thing they need is to be concerned with Teddy B’s brain with a murderer’s row of games against Oakland, Green Bay, Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona on the horizon.
Since winning the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award last season and punishing NFL executives who had him pegged correctly in April of his junior season (alongside Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel) as one of college football’s top prospects -- but fronted on him a season later on Draft Day as Bridgewater dropped to the last pick of the first round -- Bridgewater has been playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Minnesota was blessed with a gem and a pigksin-slinger who they feel is the QB of the future. That guy who will blaze the state like Randall Cunningham did in 1998 when the Vikings posted a then-NFL record 556 points, making Cunningham the first black quarterback to lead the league in that category.
The Shadow League always believed in the talents of Bridgewater as stated in a 2013 article on the Viking’s field general.
"Pro-ready" and "franchise quarterback" are two independent attributes. Bridgewater is both. He’s already led the Louisville program back from Steve Kragthorpe’s disastrous regime. Louisville has combed through Miami’s prep schools for talent in the Charlie Strong era, making Bridgewater, the former Miami Northwestern quarterback, the face of their new South Florida import recruiting philosophy.
Bridgewater wasn’t even the top prep quarterback to matriculate through Miami Northwestern’s juggernaut prep football program in the past half-decade. G.U.M.P (Great Under Major Pressure), as he’s known by teammates, assumed the quarterback reins from Jacory Harris, who won a pair of mythical national championships in the starting role and flourished.
Bridgewater initially intended to follow Harris’ footsteps by committing to Miami before re-opening his recruitment following Randy Shannon’s dismissal. After LSU put him on the backburner while they pursued UGA transfer Zach Mettenberger, Bridgewater was compelled to hop aboard a rebuilding Louisville program by Charlie Strong and former Miami recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt
The fighting spirit has always been there for the 6-2 signal caller. He had to hustle for respect in college before taking over for Charlie Strong and a rebuilding Louisville program and he’s still fighting for respect in the pros. He came into Vikings camp last season ready to assume the starting position, but the job was awarded to veteran Matt Cassel. However, Cassel went down in Week 3 and Bridgewater was rushed into duty.
A safety would never hit Tom Brady with such reckless abandon, but Bridgewater has to earn the right for an automatic pull up by a defensive player on a QB. He's not quite there yet. The concussion isn’t the end of the world for Bridgewater. He will be back and just in time to lead the Vikings to a division title. They certainly can’t surpass the Packers without him.
Tough luck and even avoidable minor tragedies are casualties of the NFL’s billion-dollar, gladiator spirit.
Joyner denies doing it intentionally:
“I know that guy. I grew up across the railroad tracks from him,” Joyner told reporters after the game. “My mom knows his mom. My dad knows his mom. I would never intentionally do a dirty play on Teddy Bridgewater.
“It was a bam-bam play. I did not know he was going to slide. When I launched, he slid, and we connected. If I could take it back, personally, I would because I’m not a dirty player.”
The Vikings aren’t buying it and neither did the refs who assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty. Mistake or intentional, it’s unfortunate because Teddy was jammin and looking more polished every game.
Matters of the head and neck are always unpredictable and sensitive. Just two games removed from his first 300-yard passing performance of the season, Bridgewater will have to spend a couple of games making sure his eggs aren’t scrambled and he can come back healthy.
In the meantime opposing teams will see an even nastier dose of AP, who becomes the Vikings first option again with Bridgewater going through concussion protocol -- if only for one week. The hit to his head and neck area looked pretty serious, so I doubt he will play on Sunday against Oakland.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Bridgewater "is feeling much better..." He also noted that the "NFL is reviewing [Joyner]'s hit."
After the overtim win, Bridgewater felt "fine," according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, who added that Bridgewater was going to dinner that evening to celebrate the win. Bridgewater thought he could have returned to the game, per Florio.
All warriors do.
That’s why those decisions aren’t left up to the players anymore. Minnesota’s fate, however is in Bridgewater’s hands and a concussion isn’t going to stop the Miami kid from attacking the game with the same bad intentions and relentless underdog mentality that lifted his unheralded Cardinals squad to a 2013 Sugar Bowl win. That night Teddy B shredded a top-ranked Florida Gators pass defense with 266 yards passing and a couple of TDs.
It’s a reminder of what’s at stake and another “I owe you one,” for Bridgewater’s motivated football mojo.